Friday, February 12, 2016

My Lenten Confession

So here I am with a confession.  While I have been hearing, even going through bits and pieces and motions of this intentional season in my church to draw nearer to God year after year, I am very sorry to say I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced the point of Lent in the way my faith deserves.  

This week marks the beginning of Lent including Ash Wednesday, the first of 40 days to reflect and align or re-align our lives with God.  And before we know it, Holy week will be here, ending with Good Friday and the celebration of Easter Sunday.  

There’s the big words of Lent— self-examination, spiritual discipline, fasting, confession, contrition, crucifixion, resurrection, reconciling, and eternity.  And then, there’s what we do with the conversation that entangles us— a giving up of something, a letting go of bad habits, a sacrifice to make, a dying of sorts to the old, sometimes a good “to-do” added to the day, all for this season, filled with tradition and religion, leading up to an Easter moment.

A few years during Lent, I gave up chocolate because that’s what everyone does (and I became obsessed with it). One time I became a want-to-be vegetarian (that made me really grumpy and malnourished).  Another year I was determined to stop yelling (yes, I have this bad habit when my boys make me crazy, so I gritted my teeth and started hissing words instead).  And my last misguided attempt was to be a better wife and completely submit to my husband by always saying “yes” to him.  This one I am not explaining further, but you can read between the lines and imagine how happy my husband was during Lent last year.

Like I told you.  It’s a confession, and I am being brutally honest.  And I hope in some way, you can relate to my honesty and laugh with me.

I look back at what I have done for Lent.  And I know, I made Lent into what it's not-- short-lived, exhausting periods of self-help, and I have managed to fail and cheat the real point every single year.  

In all of my busy living, it’s so easy to switch to auto-pilot along the way, following tradition more than I follow Jesus.  And I miss the daily bread and life-giving gifts that only come from Him.

This year is different though.  This year, I am extra tired and heavy, spent, even before this time begins.  Something in me is desperate for Lent to be different too.  It’s Ash Wednesday as I write, and I have seen and felt the suffering behind the ashes.  I have come from dust, and am aware more than ever that we all fall short of God’s glory, the glory we all beg for in our lives.  

I can relate, if only in an incomplete, weird way, and I want to take Jesus seriously because I know I wasn’t all-in before.  I was missing out, picking and choosing, and skimming over the hard and challenging parts in this season and the days that follow to get to the comfortable, good parts everybody likes, the resurrected Easter moments.

This is time, set-aside from the busy I think I need, to prepare for and remember what Jesus did for me, time for opening my life wide and wider still to what that means now, everyday, looking for what Jesus is doing, what He wants me to do with Him.

Jesus was never in a hurry.  He didn’t run from place to place, project to project.  He walked and walked, talking with others, and he was always open to the interruptions that greeted Him.  Jesus didn’t follow the crowd, and He wasn’t a crowd pleaser either.  He was different in order to challenge the empty conventions of the day.  He noticed the ordinary and overlooked, and valued the weak, the little, the burdened and sick, the humble, the imprisoned, the blind, the outcasts, and the poor.  He befriended and retreated.  Jesus didn’t get lost in His to-dos, He made His to-do’s God’s will. 

Jesus still does all those things, and He does them in regular, usable people like you and me.

I have allowed myself to use the big words and the religion of it all to make myself temporarily feel better.  Chocolate, and vegetables, not yelling, and even saying “yes” to my husband are never going to be the spiritual discipline I need to draw me closer to God, to make me give myself more fully to Him.  I cannot construct and strengthen my faith, ever, by what I think.  Only God can draw me closer and pull me into Himself, stretching me beyond what I know and what I do, day in and day out.  That’s what He does.

Yes!  This is it.  Time to get serious and free, find joy in whatever today brings because this is the real deal.  This Lenten season is an invitation to start fresh, to say good-bye to my old, tired ways and welcome what Jesus teaches me in this concentrated, special, Holy time.

How do I honor Lent in a way that is different, like Jesus is different?

Jesus brings life full, yes!  Jesus also tells me to take up my own cross and be a big girl, even when I don’t feel like it.  Jesus needs me to unschedule myself, to prepare for Him, to make room for the unwanted and hard to love.  He takes me to people, places, and times I don’t want to see, to think about, to help, to work alongside and walk through.  Because.

Because that’s what Jesus did, and God gave, in order to save everyone but Himself.  

That is part of life, full, and even though it may be heavy for moments and seasons, it’s on the way to appreciating and knowing restoration, renewal and the new life Jesus breathes into those willing to draw near to Him. 

This is a good time to be still, to stop holding on tight to my busy efforts—my doing, my striving and running and multi-tasking, and just be held by God-- the One who is always with me, God who won’t let go of me.

To just be still, to be humble and vulnerable enough, to give God my whole self to hold, to rest, to be refreshed by His grace, and to find and trust His direction and strength before I move forward again, certain of the beauty He is painting with the ashes in all of my burned-out places— this, this is what God needs most from me in this Lenten season.

What would it take for me to give concentrated attention to God?  To make myself completely available to God?  To just be held by God?

This is what I need, a letting go of my ways and short fallings, once again and anew, for time to be with God who is always with me, to give all I am to God who gave Himself to me.

God’s love is a radical, powerful love, and it’s mine (and yours) for the taking and soaking in.  It’s hard to understand and even harder to follow, and it deserves every nook and cranny of me always, not just in this season.  Jesus reminds and promises.

“The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.”
-Isaiah 58:11

*This blog post was inspired while reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, and the song, "Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns.

No comments:

Post a Comment